Back in the mid-eighties, when the first wave of child sex abuse scandals hit the Church, Archbishop Hunthausen attended a nation-wide gathering of bishops. Upon returning he told his Vicar General, “We have to do things completely different.” He removed several priests, put others under restrictions and instituted training for everyone who works in the local church.
Since then, in the Archdiocese of Seattle, we have had no new case of sexual abuse of a child or young person by a member of the clergy. I am not saying that to brag. No doubt we have failed in many areas, but we have worked hard for the protection of children. This of course should be normal in the church. It should go without saying.
God directs his harshest words against shepherds who abuse and mistreat the flock:
Hearing such words, a person can pull back from the role of shepherd. What if I were to harm a member of the flock – and such a punishment fall upon me? The answer, however, is not to run away, but to look to Jesus.
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ “heart was moved with pity” because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mk 6:34)
The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent ten years proclaiming the Gospel in India. He baptized thousands, but his heart ached for the great numbers who needed instruction and the sacraments.* In one of his letters he wrote:
When I was a missionary in Peru, I saw this from a slightly different perspective. My parishioners there knew at least the basics of faith and sacraments. Back home that was not the case. Even though I loved being in Peru, I made the decision to return to Seattle. People here keep sinking deeper into secularism (a.k.a. despair) and are dragging others with them.
Sometimes I want to shout those words of St. Francis Xavier to young people. Stop dodging your vocation! If you are meant to be a priest, pick up the phone and begin the discernment process. If you are meant to be father of a family, find a good Catholic girl (there’s lots of them). If you are meant to be a committed single, well, jump into an apostolate.**
Yes, being a shepherd does involve a risk – but how much worse to shrink from the task! In the final analysis it is not your doing. The Lord says, “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them.”
*In a single month St. Francis Xavier baptized 10,000 (I thought I was doing good baptizing 442 in one year here at Holy Family). Partly because of language limitations and partly as a pastoral strategy, he concentrated on teaching children to pray, then sending them to pray for and with their parents. In a letter he remarks, “The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another.” When he died in 1552, his right arm was sent to the Jesuit church in Rome where it is still on display. His body, largely incorrupt, lies in the Church of Bom Jesus in Goa.
**I say this by way of example. While we very much need laypeople to involve themselves in various apostolates (religious education, liturgy, works of charity such as Knights and St. Vincent de Paul) their primary task, beyond their own family, lies in the transformation of society. Getting proper training, staying up to date, doing ones job well, involvement in politics and culture are essential aspects of shepherding.
From Archives (16th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Homily by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
He is coming to St. Mary of the Valley!
Recommended Summer Reading: The Ring of the Dark Elves (a novel by Victoria Randall)
The Social Agenda (A Collection of Magisterial Texts)
Caritas-Iraq Resuming Full Operation (8,500 Newborns Among Those Helped)
Modesty in Dress at Sunday Mass (Spanish Version)
Pictures from Peru (May 2006):
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru